Mitchell Popadynetz has been a key player for the TRU WolfPack. In the last two years, the program has made the playoffs, hosted the nationals and won two bronze medals.
It is a testament to the growth and improvement in the program. Good coaching is important and that plays a big role in the success of great teams; so do talented players.
Popadynetz, along with many others, is a testament to that.
The ’Pack, due to their improved performances in recent years, has been able to recruit better talent and this has led to the team getting better results.
Executives can say that it is all about the way an organization is run, that is partly true but great recruitment is what makes the difference between winning and losing games.
In the last few years recruitment of players like Joshua Banton, Levi Andoh and Koffi Nyavor have made TRU a better team.
“It’s easy to play with good players,” Popadynetz said, “We are a lot deeper, we’ve got a good bench, we have eighteen good players on the team now.”
Despite all that talent, Popadynetz is the player that stands out the most. Without him the team isn’t the same in the attack, just look at the four games he missed.
Popadynetz is a Canada West all-star and former player of the year. He topped the scoring charts in 2017 and played an integral role in TRU getting a bronze medal at the U Sports nationals.
“The best memory I have would definitely be the bronze medal at nationals last year,” Popadynetz said.
He spoke of all the roller coaster emotions the team went through this season, from almost missing out on the playoffs to winning a bronze medal in Vancouver.
Popadynetz also reminisced about the improvements the program has made in the last four years, highlighting the fact that TRU didn’t score a single goal till the halfway mark of the regular season in his first year with the program.
Popadynetz transferred from UBC, which has allowed him to grow and get better as a player.
He is a very humble and easy going character who seems at ease talking to others, his persona is similar to his playing style; laidback and effortless.
Popadynetz spoke highly of head coach John Antulov and the tremendous impact he has had on the program and its growth.
He also described the impact Antulov has had on his game as a whole.
“He has helped me improve with pretty much everything and he is a great coach who knows the game really well and how to lead a team,” he said.
He explained how Antulov has helped him with his positioning without the ball, something which most attacking players struggle with; his defensive side of the game has improved as a result.
Popadynetz also plays club soccer during the summer, ironically he plays as a right-back which is a stark contrast to the role he plays for TRU. He acknowledged that too, along with Antulov’s coaching, has helped him improve his defensive play.
Playing for two different teams means playing for different coaches, something which he manages well.
“Playing for different coaches gives you a new perspective, I just try and bring back what I learned to TRU,” Popadynetz said.
Despite the positive end to the season it has been a pretty frustrating year for Popadynetz who has suffered a dislocated shoulder and sprained ankle. Through it all, he has managed to keep a smile on his face and make a difference for the team.
He has also faced challenges with being a student-athlete.
“It’s all about time management,” he said, “Trying to plan your classes away from the Fridays because we travel on a Friday.”
He hopes to continue playing soccer after school, he is hopeful that he gets picked up by a team in the newly formed Canadian Premier League.
The WolfPack men’s soccer team will miss his talents and will need to recruit wisely to replace him as they can ill afford to make mistakes with their recruitment.